Christmas bubbles - what am I allowed to do?

10 December 2020

Three students, two male and one female, sit together on a sofa in their flat watching tv

This article was updated on 21 December 2020 following new Government rules

On 19 December the Government announced tougher coronavirus restrictions and changes to the rules for making a bubble over the Christmas period. Alongside this new Tier 4 restrictions were introduced for parts of England.

Many of you will have already made plans for this time based on the original Christmas bubble guidance, which allowed up to three households to meet between 23 and 27 December. With this in mind we have put together a summary of what the revised guidance means for you.

  • Those living in a Tier 1,2 or 3 area may see a maximum of two other households (your ‘Christmas bubble’) on Christmas Day only (25 December). You cannot see anyone from a Tier 4 area.
  • These rules apply to all types of accommodation, including halls of residence, and replace the previous rules on forming Christmas bubbles. Oxfordshire, including Oxford, and Swindon, remain in Tier 2.
  • Government guidance states that you should think very carefully about the risks and only form a Christmas bubble if you feel you absolutely need to. Wherever possible, discuss alternatives to meeting up in person.
  • If you live in a Tier 4 area, you must follow the rules in your tier over the Christmas period. This means that you cannot meet other people indoors, unless you ordinarily live with them, or they are part of your existing support bubble. Outdoors, you can only meet one person from another household.


If you are in a Tier 1, 2 or 3 area you can:

  • Form a Christmas bubble with a maximum of two other households:
    • If you have returned to your family home for the Christmas break you are considered to be part of that household and not your semester-time household
    • You can form a different Christmas bubble to the people you live with while at university, for example if you are staying in halls. Please ensure you follow this guidance
    • A support bubble counts as one household. The two households of a support bubble can choose to join different Christmas bubbles
  • You can only form one Christmas bubble on 25 December
  • Overnight stays are not allowed and visits should be as short as possible
  • Travel between Tiers 1-3 in England is allowed however it is recommended that you stay local where possible and avoid traveling from a high prevalence to low prevalence area
  • Christmas bubbles can meet in private homes or gardens, places of worship, or public outdoor spaces
  • You are still able to meet with people outside of your Christmas bubble, please remember to follow the rules for the tier you are meeting in
  • You cannot form a Christmas bubble if you are self-isolating on 25 December. If you, or someone in your household or bubble, develop Covid-19 symptoms you must follow self-isolation guidance
  • Please note, this guidance applies to England and there are differences for the devolved nations (Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales), please check the specific rules for these areas


If you are remaining in halls over the Christmas break this means:

  • If you plan to celebrate with the rest of your flat you will count as one household:
    • You can form a Christmas bubble on 25 December with a maximum of two other households which cannot change
    • You can socialise together inside - in your flat or at their homes
    • You can socialise together outside in public places or a private garden
    • You can also socialise outside in public places with people from outside of your Christmas bubble but you must follow the rules for the tier you are meeting in
    • Overnight stays are not allowed and visits should be as short as possible
  • You can choose to form a Christmas bubble with people outside of your flat on 25 December:
    • In this instance, you count as one household
    • You can form a Christmas bubble with a maximum of two other households which cannot change
    • Overnight stays are not allowed and visits should be as short as possible


Help to keep yourself and others safe this Christmas by:

  • Stop all unnecessary social contact outside of your immediate household as soon as possible and for at least five days before you meet other households in your bubble
  • Remember to wear your face covering, if you are able to
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Clean high touch point areas, such as door handles and surfaces, regularly
  • Remember to keep socially distanced from people you do not live with as much as possible
  • Keep indoor spaces well ventilated during visits from your Christmas bubble
  • In the two weeks which follow your last meeting with your Christmas bubble please keep contact with people outside of your household to a minimum
  • If you, or a member of your Christmas bubble develop Covid-19 symptoms, or test positive for Covid-19 on 25 December, or up to 48 hours after meeting, all members of the bubble must self-isolate as if they were members of the same household


As a reminder, Oxfordshire (including Oxford) and Swindon are currently in Tier 2: High alert. For full details of what this means for you, please see the Government website.

In brief:

  • Indoors - you can only meet socially with people you live with or have formed a support bubble with. Indoors can mean a private residence or an indoor venue such as a pub or restaurant
  • Outdoors - you can see friends or family you do not live with (or do not have a support bubble with) outdoors, in a group of no more than six (the rule of six). Outdoors means a private garden or public space
  • Face coverings and social distancing rules still apply


Latest travel guidance within the UK

The Minister of State for Universities has recently written to all students confirming that they may still travel home within the UK for Christmas, including those travelling from or to a Tier 4 area. Any student can travel home once during the period 3 December 2020 and 7 February 2021. Students will form part of the household they return to and will not count as a separate household.


Travel outside of the UK

Following the Government’s announcement, a number of countries have imposed travel restrictions to and from the UK. If you are planning to travel to somewhere outside the UK, you should check whether your destination country has any restrictions in place that may affect your plans. You should also check the latest Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice